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What are the skills of a facilitator?

Skills of a facilitator
October 3, 2023 10:00 am

An effective facilitator possesses skills in the following areas:

  • They know how to “show up” in a way that supports a safe, inclusive environment for collaboration.
  • They understand how to effectively manage the process or structure of the meeting.
  • They effectively manage interpersonal or group dynamics.

How Effective Facilitators Show Up

Some specific facilitator skills or behaviors include the ability to paraphrase back and ensure people feel their voice has been heard. Further, effective facilitators seek clarification from the group to understand if they misinterpreted what was said or if they paraphrased it correctly. A key skill includes creating closure on topics before moving on to the next one. The use of summarization is vital in this area; when you, the facilitator, summarize back to the group, they feel heard, but more importantly, if something was missed, they can mention it right away instead of three agenda topics later, when it can take the group off-topic or impede the flow of conversation.

Active Listening and being perceived as Neutral are also critical for effective facilitators.

Effective Facilitators Enter a Meeting with a POP

As facilitators, we must be very diligent before entering a meeting and make sure our planning process is strong. There are many questions that we want to ask;

  • The most critical is the purpose. Why are we meeting?
  • What outcomes do we have to achieve by the end of this meeting?
  • What are the tangible outcomes?
    • Examples can include a report and agreement on an Action Plan
  • What intangible outcomes are we looking for?
    • Examples can include increasing confidence toward the team and strengthening motivation to move forward.

With both tangible and intangible outcomes, we then must design a process or a structure that will enable those outcomes. We must understand what we call the P.O.P. (Purpose, Outcomes, Process). That takes care of the structure of the meeting.

Great Facilitators Have Strategies to Keep the Group Productive

Even if you show up and have great structure, there are people sitting around the table. If you can’t manage those people, your structure goes out the window and it doesn’t matter how well you show up. You must understand the third area, and that is how to manage interpersonal dynamics of the group. The most important aspect is establishing up front what we call norms or interpersonal guidelines.

How are we going to interact during the meeting with one another to ensure we have a respectful and safe environment. Everyone should feel their voice has been leveraged, this is the definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We want to make sure that we’re constantly checking with folks, ensuring all voices are heard, intervening when necessary so that all perspectives are on the table to make the best decision at the end.

All of these skills are interdependent, and our effectiveness as facilitators rests on our weakest link among them.

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Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!